Race Reports, October 2009

Sunderland parkrun, Silksworth, 31st October


George Nicholson

The 4th week of Park Runs in Sunderland, but my first. My aim is to use this series of shorter regular runs as an aide to regaining some semblance of fitness without incurring any further injuries. 33 runners turned up on this bright and fresh morning for this well organised & FREE run. There was a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, but nevertheless I was pleased to see 2 other striders had also turned up - Denise & Dougie.

The first 1k begins with a rather slippery grass incline and then round the edge of a football pitch, but from there, the remaining 4k keeps to the tarmac pathways round Silksworth Park. Dougie was first Strider home having pulled away at this 1k point and was only 1 second slower than his previous week's time. Denise ran relaxed and comfortable with a strong finish on the final uphill climb.

Dougie is *not* grabbing his crotch, allright? Comprehensive results were posted on their web site within a few hours. Included are several interesting filter options . Age grading being my favourite! Certainly good to see that ELVET STRIDERS are top Club (due to the greatest number of runs completed). Lets hope we can stay in this pole position with many more Striders taking part over the next few weeks. Obviously other major events, XCountry etc. take precedent. However this event does not encroach into a Saturday schedule too much - turn up, run ,and still be home by 10.00 am.

Worth noting - the fastest female runner for the course is Charmaine Porter of Jarrow & Hebburn AC. Her PB was on the 24th October (19 mins 05 secs. - just slightly over 6 mins/miles pace). Later that same day she came first in her age group at the Temple Park XCountry fixture. The joys of youth! She is only 14 years old.

Sherman Cup & Davison Shield, Temple Park, 24th October


The 2009-10 cross country season started with an excellent turnout of 19 Striders at yesterday's Sherman Cup in South Shields.

On a wet and windy day no less than seven Striders made their x/c debuts (five women and two men) with debutant Phillip Sanderson finishing 7th overall and leading the Striders men home while Mudwoman herself, in pouring rain, was first lady Strider home.

Susan.Stef.Nina.Jo - quite, quite mad.

This was a great start to the season and everyone seemed to have a good time in the tent and out on the course in spite of the hostile weather. Elvet Eats were in full swing and barely a crumb was left when the tent was dismantled.

Jan.Corrina.Clare, beyond pain.Emma. Where does a general keep his armies? All together now ...

See you all at Farringdon for the first Harrier League fixture on Saturday 28 November.


Davison Shield

Found one of you too, Anna!
Thanks to Phil Owen
for the photos.
Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 WILKINSON, Sarah Unattached (?) 22:47
40 DAVIS, Susan 29:44
42 BARLOW, Stephanie 29:54
45 MASON, Nina 30:07
48 HERON, Joanne 30:19
51 YOUNG, Jan 30:50
55 PETHYBRIDGE, Anna 31:15
59 JAMES, Corrina 32:14
74 BOS, Clare Van Den 35:49
75 DETCHON, Emma 36:00

78 finishers.
Team 10th out of 11 full teams.

Sherman Cup

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 HURST, Phil Elswick Harriers 29:29
7 SANDERSON, Phillip 31:33
22 HORSLEY, Will 33:06
94 GIBSON, David 37:17
120 REEVES, Thomas 38:33
142 ROBERTS, Shaun 40:02
155 METSON, John 41:05
158 DAVIS, Geoff 41:10
201 OWEN, Phil 44:32
224 NISBET, Dougie 47:48
228 ROBSON, Dave 49:31

235 finishers.
Teams 1st: 6th, 2nd: 37th, 3rd: 56th out of 67 full teams of three each.
Subject to Stewards' inquiry.

Border Reivers Half Marathon, RAF Spadeadam, Haltwistle, 22nd October

Shaun Roberts

A race on a Thursday, during the day, was never going to be on for many Striders, but Barrie Evans and I made the trip along the A69 to RAF Spadeadam, and Paul Evans was there to meet us, fresh off a plane from Afghanistan - well, almost! I was keen to try this one after doing the Paras 10 last year, and experiencing the wierd atmosphere of running past patrols of squaddies, burnt-out tanks, and then getting out into what at times was actually unspoilt countryside. This course was very similar: some tarmac, then hard wide forest tracks - i.e. tracks you could get a lorry down, rather than just a sheep - with pieces of military hardware parked up by the side: rocket launchers, personnel carriers, all sorts of stuff. Paul said these were for the planes to use for sighting, and probably had working electronics inside for them to lock onto.

Bit of a long uphill drag to start with, but then the route rose and fell in long undulations - nothing too steep, either up or downhill - but nothing much flat either. Pretty firm, hard even, underfoot - a bit stony in parts, not very muddy at all, even after a night of rain. The course had been described as including "superb views over the fells", but to be honest with you, there wasn't much of this - endless views of coniferous forest, more like. Also an eagle, though.

Paul thought he'd be a bit tired after all the travel, and had a bit of cramp towards the end, but did a very solid 1:29 or so, which seemed pretty good to me after being confined to an army base in Afghanistan with only a one-kilometre perimeter fence to run round. I was well-chuffed to get round a course like this in a shade under 1:35, especially after busting a gut at the Saltergate on Sunday. And Barrie finished in 1:51 or so, which was a great run for him and his knees on a surface like this, and faster than his recent GNR time!

Into the Mess after a very welcome shower - nice to have a pint after a run without the legs still being covered in a crust of drying mud - before a very civilised dining-room lunch of Jumbo Sausage Roll, chips and Mediterranean pasta. Then fit young squaddies scooped all the prizes - doh! All this for an entry fee of £10, which included a T-shirt and medal as well, would you believe. Brendan Foster should get along ...


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 SAC Williams RAF Leuchars M 1:23:28
6 Paul Evans M 1:27:51
16 Shaun Roberts MV50 1:34:51
54 Barrie Evans MV60 1:51:02

85 finishers.

Saltergate Gallows Fell Race, North Yorks Moors, 18th October


Nigel Heppell

Two Striders tried this one out for the first time on Sunday, attracted by the prospect of enhancing their standing in the Northeastern Fell Running Championships series. The race starts above the gloriously named 'Hole of Horcum' (see link below) and charges off down a long and slightly descending ridge on a good track allowing the 'whippets' to stretch out the field considerably. Nice and sunny here running into a cool breeze rapidly changed to hot and sticky as the course turned through 180 degrees past 'Skelton Tower' and began an equally long drag back uphill along 'Levisham Bottoms' before plunging down the 'Angel's Staircase', through the woods and under the NYM railway line to the accompanying sounds of steam being let off somewhere - don't think it was the runners tho' - followed by a nice muddy/rocky track up the opposite side of the valley and a long haul across the top of 'Yaul Sike Stack' - that's just above 'Killing Nab Scar' in case you were wondering - and then an interesting slither back down to the valley bottom on near-vertical soft wet clay churned up by the race leaders. This bit was equipped with a rope handrail by the race organisers and was said to be the preferred route because the usual descent off 'Neadle Point' was in dangerous condition!

Having got all the way down and across the stream and railway line again, it just remained to skirt the boggy rim of 'Pifelhead Wood', negotiate the trod alongside the ravine, skip through the pasture with the highland cattle- nice and placid with bemused expressions - and then go for the final short climb which seemed to be too much for a lot of people to run, before two stiles and a dash to the finish.

It was a bit hairy at times.
Photo courtesy and © David Aspin

A very scenic race if you can take your eyes off the track ahead for a moment or two, and lots of prizes at the end although, sadly, none came our way! Honourable mention to Sarah Lister, winner of her category.

Note: this race coincided with a WWII weekend organised by the NYM Railway and we were treated to the sight of lots of old vehicles on the road, everyone in period costume and juggling for space in the carpark with open-topped Bentleys and Jaguars.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Lewis Banton Clown AC M 1 62.21
40 Shaun Roberts MV50 7 77.39
67 Nigel Heppell MV55 4 80.28

124 finishers.

Richmond Castle 10K, 18th October

Dougie Nisbet

Seven Striders at the finish in Richmond.

The weather was in benevolent mood as we parked in the intriguingly named Nuns Close Car Park. A web search the previous evening had shown that it was relaxed in its relationship with the apostrophe with different websites plonking an apostrophe in a fairly indiscriminate manner amongst the letters. I noticed with interest that the welcome sign was without, as was the street sign. Perhaps if I spent more time training and less time trying to understand apostrophes, I might get better results. ( I mean, who was Neville, and why was he so cross?).

Jackie gets her prize.

I've done Richmond before and I like it. I like the start especially. Like the Burn Valley half-marathon, and a lot of fell races for that matter, everything stops while the town comes out to send off the race. There's a good happy friendly feel to it. More Striders appeared as the crowd and runners assembled around the town square and I found Andy Jordan lounging around at the back of the bunch and we chatted about the hills and the beer festival and then it was time to go.

I wasn't sure how to run this so I was using a stripped-down version of my Loch Ness marathon strategy. Start Steady, see how it goes. I have yet to do a run that wasn't longer than I thought it would be and after the relays and the Sunderland Parkrun 5K I'm seriously thinking about getting myself a huge 'motivational' poster that simply says IT'S FURTHER THAN YOU THINK! I caught Andy James around the 4K mark and then saw a splash of purple that turned out to be Zoe. At the 7K point I was a matter of yards behind her then we'd hit another downhill stretch and she'd bound away again. Then in the last km with nothing but uphill to the finish I made my move. A furious shout hit my ears and I was too scared to look over my shoulder as I slogged up the hill and into the castle grounds. I crossed the line and checked my time to discover that, bewilderingly, I was nearly 4 minutes down on last year. It hadn't felt any easier!

Before long there was quite a crowd of Striders and we enjoyed the sunshine, took photos of ourselves then wandered of to investigate the beer festival and to see the prize giving. Jackie Smith won her prize in her category, and Andrew Thompson had another good run as did Andy Jordan, with Andy James, according to the results(!) beating the lot of us!


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Darran Bilton Swaledale Road Runners M40 1 0:32:49
11 Sarah Tunstall Kendal AC F 1 0:37:22
204 Andrew Thompson M 79 0:49:58
222 Andrew Jordan M 84 0:50:48
259 Christopher Hedley MV50 24 0:52:30
317 Dougie Nisbet MV45 44 0:55:09
324 Zoe Tomlins F 19 0:55:39
375 Andy James * MV60 17 0:58:23
430 Margaret Thompson FV60 3 1:06:22
436 Jackie Smith FV70 1 1:07:08

* After Stewards' Inquiry.

461 finishers.

Dryderdale Dash, Hamsterley, 18th October


Geoff Davis...

"There is nothing like a race, nothing in the world"

I haven't raced much this year. In fact, until yesterday I hadn't raced since early July and for me that's a very long time. Since then, I'd done most of the club handicaps, had ran around county hall car park and up North road but "there is nothing like a race" for finding out just how fit you are.

I set off on the 5 mile trail race in Hamsterley yesterday (the Dryderdale Dash) at my old pace i.e. the one I used when I was fit. However, I could only keep this up for about a mile and had to revert to a 'Bob Graham shuffle' - a pace I used to use on mega long distance stuff. But even this felt too fast and I had to fiercely resist the temptation to walk up the hills. As my rivals began to disappear into the distance I felt very alone and began to realise that there were more runners in front of me than behind (although the field only consisted of 12!).

This started me thinking about my training over the last couple of months and I realised that you can't expect to blast out like wot you used to do when you've been on the 'Old Speckled Hen diet'. While this might seem possible when you're poodling around Durham its no good in preparing for that moment in a race when the red mist descends and you want to chase some skinny bald bloke in a Crook vest to make sure you're the first V.50.

As you will have gathered, the moral of this sorry tale is that you can't expect to run fast without putting in the hard graft and avoiding the beer, and the toughest test of whether you've done that is in a race - however long.

Note: The field of 12 consisted of 4 Striders who finished in this order: Tom, me, Susan & Jan.

... and from Jan Young

Dry, sunny, crisp autumn morning; fabulous autumn colours on the trees. Just right for a swift 5miles in the forest. Tom Reeves and I wore Elvet colours, Sue and Geoff Davis wore NFR colours and along with 7 other runners received a can or bottle prize, parking fee and mug of tea included in the entry fee. Enjoyable hilly run. I felt no pressure, happy to be last in; Martin from Crook AC following me round efficiently removing the course markers.

Beijing Marathon, 18th October

Peter Brooks

Peter at the Beijing Marathon - the symbols on the road, since you ask, concern traffic!
Photo courtesy and © Mark Hazlehurst

The day started overcast and very polluted - not good for running a marathon! There was to be two separate starts 8am for the elite and the Chinese national games competitors and 8:15am for the marathon, half marathon, 9k and mini-marathon. The start was in the South East corner of Tian'anmen Square and at exactly 8:15am we were set off with a left turn at the North East corner of Tian'anmen square and about four miles along a very wide, straight road.

I was not trying for a PB, but I knew I had to beat a five hour cut off or I would not be able to finish, I managed to keep running until mile 21 when my legs just wouldn't carry on and I started to suffer with the dreaded cramp, I managed to struggle on for another 3 miles, but at 24 miles, just outside the birds nest stadium, I just wanted to sit down and not go on any further but I knew I only had about 2 miles left so I carried on to finish in 4:43, nowhere near my PB but I was happy to beat the sweeper bus to the end.

It was a surreal experience as all the chinese runners wanted to run with me and photograph me - I felt just like Eddie Izzard! and all the spectators along the route wanted a photo of me. Sometimes, it is a huge advantage being a Westerner.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Mugo Samuel Kenya M 2:19:25
3591 Peter Brooks M 4:43:34

4340 finishers.

Abingdon Marathon, 18th October

Clare van den Bos

I ran the Abingdon Marathon last weekend - I can't recommend it highly enough.

'The hills are alive ...'

The Hills are Alive...

Sunday was a lovely morning for running - crisp and clear. Which means an awful cold morning for standing around before the race. We line up on the track and the announcer says "All fun runners running over 3 hours please go to the back of the field" ... I nearly leave then. If 3 hours+ is a fun runner, what on earth am I??? A fun dawdler? An entertaining plodder?

The course is a 3 mile stretch, then two 9 mile loops and then a different 5.2 mile stretch finishing with a lap of the running track and a stadium finish. It takes you through some lovely Oxfordshire countryside and has trails as well as tarmac. At 2 miles I ran past a turkey farm that reminded me of triffids. Then I think we ran through Abingdon for the first time. Lovely place. Looking beautiful in the sunshine with the church bells ringing. All the marshals were friendly and I tried to say at least "Thank you" to them all as I ran by. Lots of them said I looked fresh. Well I should've done, I'd only done 6 miles or so!

The size and speed of the field made a big difference to my race. I was at the back of the field and for most of the race I ran completely on my own, or within sight of maybe one or two other runners. And the organizers were (sensibly) enforcing the "no ipod" rule. This made some of the race really hard work mentally. Especially when we went through the industrial estate. Which was dull. And a little bit unnerving at one point when I really thought I'd gone the wrong way ... but I was rescued by a marshal. Through a lovely bit of woodland with the colours of the autumn trees and the birdsong.

Twenty miles down - six and a bit to go.

Then back through Abingdon and the last, hardest couple of miles as all the runners who've finished are walking back to their cars saying "Well done/ looking strong/ not far now" and you're torn between thinking "Bog off, speedy" and "Gaaaaahhh... carry me please!" Nothing really hurt for the first 20 miles or so, but my legs made up for that over the last 3. I could happily have stopped and sat down, except for the thought that I'd have had to get up again and walk to the car.

Over the road and into the park for the evil twisty bit before the stadium. And a lovely woman on a bike with a music system playing Chariots of Fire and shouting "Keep running! Don't walk!" Then seeing the 400m to go marker and noting that Garmin said 4:48:x and that if I was going to get my target (4:50) I was going to have to run a bit faster. Coming on to the track and hearing my fetch friends shouting "GO ON CLARE!!!" - and digging deep ... then realising I could probably overtake the 2 people in front without looking too silly ... and seeing that there was one last person I could pass ... and crossing the line in 4:50:51.

I am certainly coming back to do this again. It's a great course, wonderfully organised and there are lots of lovely marshals too.

Sunderland parkrun, Silksworth, 17th October


Dougie Nisbet

After looking at Phil's pictures from the first Sunderland park run I thought I might give it a go. And on Saturday morning when I looked out the window and saw the clear skies I knew there was no excuse. This event is so straightforward. Once you've registered you simply turn up and run. Most people allow a nominal time for a bit of a warm-up. In Phil's case, arriving on the line with, oh, almost 5 seconds to spare, the warm up was running from the car to the line. It didn't seem to cramp his style as he ran strongly from the start. Zoe and I were pretty evenly matched and finished within 10 seconds of each other. Zoe commented later that she needed to concentrate on imagining she had a tennis ball stuck up her bum to help her running style. There was a silence as me and Phil held on to that thought and struggled with the mental imagery. We had no idea what she meant but hopefully more explanations will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead.

Zoe adds:

I would like to state categorically that the "tennis ball trick" was recommended by Runners World magazine, and does really help with a tight gluteus maximus. Any other interpretations of my comments are blamed upon Dougie and Phil's overactive imaginations!

NE Score Champs, Wallington, 11th October

60 min, 30 controls

Dougie Nisbet

Dougie's result Saturday hadn't gone well. I got bored sitting in a long queue of traffic waiting to get to the Alwinton Border Shepherds Show so gave up, turned round, and went for a walk around Cragside instead. Driving a scenic route back to Durham we passed Wallington where I saw some signs saying "Caution - Runners" and I wondered what that was all about. When I got home I read Colin's email about an orienteering event at the Wallington National Trust site, checked the weather forecast, and that was Sunday sorted.

It's just over two years since I last did an orienteering event. That was a gentle 'Come and Try it' event at Chopwell Forest. The timing for me was interesting because when I did the Chopwell event I was just starting running a bit more seriously and at the time I rather simplistically thought of orienteering and running as a bit of an 'either/or'. I thought there were people who did orienteering and people who did running and that there was little or no cross-over. This is obviously nonsense. At Wallington there were all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds with all sorts of fitness and abilities.

Two years since my last event, and two differences struck me immediately. First, my eyesight. Sadly that seems to have declined noticeably. I peered curiously at the blobs and text on the map and decided just to concentrate on the obvious stuff. River, fences, walls. That's about all you need. Second, the technology. Great Fun! Gone are the incredibly low-tech punches that I used to think were so sophisticated. Now it's all things that go BEEP and apart from my initial bewilderment it's all very straightforward. This was all taken care of and explained to me when I signed in.

I decided to got for the Score 60 event. This is simplicity itself. Go to the start. Start. See how many Controls you can get round in an hour. Finish. I was intrigued that there was no pre-arranged start time. I just wandered up when I was ready, beeped the dibber in the gizmo marked START, and off I went. I started like a rocket, raced across the picnic area and through the gates, out onto the path and into the woods. Once safely out of sight I got the map out and had a look at it since I had absolutely no idea where the hell I was. Presently, and more sedately, I headed off for the controls that took my fancy.

This event turned out to be exactly what I needed one week after the Loch Ness Marathon. It has none of the conventional pressures of a road or trail race but it's still a good idea to shift it when you get the chance as it is a race against the clock. Different orienteers have different styles; some manage to map read on the run. I prefer to lean against a tree, decide where I'm going, then go as fast as I can for as long as I can before I inexplicably need to stop to look at the map again. This usually mysteriously co-incides with me needing a bit of a rest. It's a bit like interval training, or perhaps more accurately, fartlek.

Map with Colin's route
Event map with Colin's route, click to see full size

Roberta decided to go for a walk that coincidentally followed the main paths that skirted much of the route. There were times that I felt like a labrador puppy as I kept crashing out of the undergrowth and bounding along only to bump into her again as she strolled steadily around the estate. I resisted the urge to pick up a big stick in my teeth and drop it at her feet.

After finishing I spotted Colin and Elfie and we immediately started a detailed deconstruction of the course, the controls and our route choices. After the first two controls (with just another 28 to go), Elfie's eyes began to glaze over and she left us to carry on with our post-mortem and wandered off to investigate the restaurant.

This was the first time I've done an orienteering event since I started running seriously and I was really pleased at how much I felt it helped. I often think I don't do enough cross-training or include enough variety in my training and this really fits the glove. I really want to do more of this sort of thing. This was a great event as it included cross-country, fartlek, road, trail, and optional water crossing (I took the bridges, Colin forded the river 4 times. Wish I'd thought of that!). You can pretty much customize and mix and match the whole race to suit your own tastes.


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time Points
1 David Day CLOK M60 1 56:21 485
10 Colin Blackburn NN M45 1 58:19 440
28 Dougie Nisbet Ind M45 3 55:09 325

38 finishers.
485 points available.

Shaun Lee Johnstone Memorial Race, 11th October


Phil Owen

When I started running races Dave Robson and I seemed to do a lot of small races around the North East and Yorkshire. The best ones always seemed to be the smaller ones in some little village or town like the Kirkby Malzard 10K or the Muddy boots in Ripon (I think). I love these races, usually quite cheap – rarely more than a tenner and often the most enjoyable with the profits going to various charities and or schools. They are nearly always over run with marshals and volunteers from the place to keep the cost down with one (. I can’t remember where it was) that had more marshals than runners! This race falls well into that category with nearly all the money going to the Shaun Lee Johnstone Fund:

Ray Johnstone tragically lost his son Shaun in 1998 when he was only 16 years old. Shaun died within five months after complaining to his GP about headaches and shaking in his left hand. Unfortunately nothing was done and neither Shaun nor his parents were told of the possible connection. The day before Shaun died ‘psychosomatic’ was written on his medical notes. Ray and his wife Paula have been tireless fundraisers for SDBTT since that time. They have now raised over £20,000! A great many activities and events have been planned and undertaken and Ray has been successful in helping to raise the profile of the Trust in his local area of North Yorkshire. [From the website]

A wonderful 10 mile off road race to be held annually, run around the fields, narrow farm tracks and bridleways just south of Boroughbridge off the old York Road (168). Anna the Harrier and I travelled down together and pulled into a little café that was used for parking. Quite early so we had coffee and home made ginger biscuits in the café before crossing the 168 onto a farm road where the field gathered. We met up with John a fetchie I always seem to meet with at this type of even and stood chatting for a until 10 minutes from the off when we realized we had not picked our numbers up. Rushed to a farm building a few minutes away and grabbed our numbers and after a short speech saying the course was largely dry but the lake was still there we were off. (Note: this route has the potential to be very muddy-which is good of course.)

A short stretch of tarmac and then soon onto typical farm trails with runners running single file on the two tractor tyre tracks. Onto a narrow single track with high trees bushes and hedgerows where overtaking was difficult (note to self for next year get the best position I can early on if possible) and back along wider path where the ‘lake’ , a large puddle easily passed then through a gate where the supportive farmer had thankfully removed the bull and cows the day before and onto the pasture at two miles in (all miles were clearly marked), across a small ditch, round a copse of tree and back through the gate we had come through. Anna stayed who had kindly pointed out her slowest 10 mile time would beat my PB stayed slightly ahead of me lolling along without a care in the world while I tried to run as hard as I could on my somewhat weary legs. Through a farm with the farmer his family and ever present Lyons club members handing out water and back onto more farm trails. Much the same beautiful Yorkshire landscape gleaming in the sunshine follows until we were again going back through the farm for more water (I never take any for 10-mile races these days unless it really hot) through the gate again, back over the ditch round the copse of trees again and hard to the finish at the farm. Water and medal handed out at the end. I was happy enough to equal my PB which bodes well for Brampton on less weary legs. Well done to Anna who won her age category without trying!

A perfect well organized race and £2000 raised. I will definitely be back to do it next year.

Ampleforth Trail Race, 11th October


Alan Purvis

Alan before the off.

A glimpse of a habitat populated by privileged youth was offered to competitors in the Ampleforth 7M Trail Race. Benedictine monks found the perfect place to found their abbey in a hidden valley in the Hambleton Hills at the southern end of the North York Moors. The start/finish was in the grounds of Ampleforth College, sometimes called the "Catholic Eton". I counted seven rugby pitches and two cricket squares complete with 'mock Tudor' pavilions, as well as a running track and swimming pool. For pupils to enjoy these facilities they need parents who can afford fees of a cool £26,500 a year! It was midday on Sunday but there was no sign of the residents of the magnificent stone buildings as we made our way to the start.

'A scenic off-road race through woodland and forest'. Although this description was quite accurate it didn't mention that the difference between the altitude of the start/finish and the highest point on the course was over 100 metres! Almost the whole event was along forest trails with some very steep ascents and descents which quickly spread out the field of about one hundred.

I had a battle at the back of the field with two women and a man - passing them and being passed according to the gradient. Running along a narrow path I heard a polite request, "Can I just pop by you here?". Being a gentleman I allowed her through but managed to pass her on the flat run in to avoid the ignominy of being last!

As we left we saw a couple of the "young gentlemen" emerge from the village pub. Perhaps they were all in there!

Footnote: Rule of St Benedict and the School Motto "....do now what will profit us forever" - probably one of the earliest exhortations to get some training in!

Sunderland parkrun, Silksworth, 10th October


Peter Brooks

There have been parkruns every Saturday across the country for a few years now and today was the first one to be run in Silksworth, Sunderland. The parkrun idea is simple, they are free 5k time trials held every Saturday morning in a park.

What about us veggies? Graham Daglish, Zoe Tomlins, Lindsey Brooks and myself turned up to try to be the first strider to finish a parkrun in Sunderland. After a brief race briefing outling the course, we were off at 9am. I had planned to take it steady as I am flying to Beijing the following day, that plan disappeared after about 10 metres. Graham disappeared off with Zoe, Lindsey and me trying to keep going over the slippery grass section at the start of the race. We were soon onto tarmac paths around the sports complex and I managed to settle down into a reasonable pace. halfway around the lake, I saw Phil Owen taking photos, he was, for once, not running, luckily he didn't notice me on the first lap as I was struggling a bit by then, but he managed to get me on the second! The final kilometre was a nice downhill stretch into the finish. Graham was first Strider home with Zoe first female Strider to finish, just in front of me

Thirty runners turned up for this well organised, fun race which will be held at 9am every Saturday morning, all you need to do if you wish to take part is to register on the parkrun website for free at least 24 hours before your first run.

Another advantage of this run is that Sainsbury do a very good "big breakfast" which was more than welcome at the finish!

Loch Ness Marathon, Inverness, 4th October

Andrew Thompson

Andrew and Phil I was aiming for 4 hours and thought to get this I would have to run the first half quicker and hope I had enough gas in the tank/legs to get through the tough final miles. The start is in the highlands and the route drops down to the Loch side. The middle miles run alongside the waterfront, so there was excellent scenery throughout. I think I saw Nessie at one point but it might have been the impact of an energy gel mixed with Lucozade playing tricks on my mind, I wasn't prepared to jeopardize my sub 4 hour aim to go back and check.

First half went to plan, crossing half way at 1.52 and the good pace continued until around 17 which is when the course changes and the hilly section begins.

I was worried that I was going to come to a grinding halt at 20 miles, which happened in my last marathon. The downhills that followed the ups gave recovery time though so when the 23 mile marker came and went without the dreaded thunderbolt I knew I was going to make it.

There is a very cruel end to this race, where you run past the finish at about 24 miles, only a small bridge away from the end but they send you on a loop round to the next bridge and back again- very demoralising but instantly forgotten once the finish line was crossed. I ran 3 hours 54 minutes, which I was delighted with.

An excellent race with great scenery and a good atmosphere throughout. Highly recommended!"

Dougie Nisbet

Jings, Crivvens and Help Ma Boab were just three epithets that didn't cross my lips as I tumbled over the finish line just 3 and a bit minutes the wrong side of 4 hours. There were times when I really thought it was going to happen - that I was going to duck under the elusive 4 hours, but not today.

Nisbet of Nisbet The day started promisingly enough with orderly queues of runners filling up the endless queue of coaches that parked neatly around the start. Unfortunately, just as I was about to alight, they turned out not to be endless after all. There was a lot of radio chatter and hairy bikers flashing by on snazzy motorbikes, but no more buses. This was looking interesting. Eventually, 50 minutes late, a queue of bulging coaches departed Inverness. 50 minutes; remember that number.

About an hour later, somewhere in the Scottish Highlands, the inevitable happened. Not to me, because I've long since ignored the bladder-busting pre-hydration tosh that is often routinely promoted as essential pre-race preparation, but to the poor sod sat at the front of the top deck of my bus, things were getting desperate. He started politely enough by asking the Germans packed on the stairs to pass a message to the driver, to pull over if possible. This got lost in translation. Then we passed a coach that had succumbed to its rebellious passengers, and our chap got a bit agitated, and decided to take more positive actions. He stood up decisively, leaned over, and pressed the bell! If he thought that was going to have the desired effect he was sadly mistaken. For the next 5 miles our bus was "Just Stopping" (in the middle of nowhere) according to the neon sign, then we passed another coach in a passing place, and it was all too much. This time he jumped up in a state of agitation and pressed the bell at least 5 times with a noticeable lack of interest from the driver. At this point I heard some ladies behind me say "Oh look, the poor man, he's obviously in real pain!". Laugh, I almost didn't.

Finally he cracked; our hero jumped up and, with his face a picture of pain and frustration, announced he was getting of the bus NOW. He climbed over the Germans on the stair and was lost from view, then the coach lurched drunkenly and suddenly into a passing place. A cheer exploded throughout the coach and at least 80% of the coach, clearly wishing to show solidarity, followed our bell dinging hero out to the facilities.

It was all very well behaved. The ladies went to one side, and the gents to the other. There was a grey area where, well, I'll spare you the details. But barely(!) 3 minutes later and we were all clambering back on the bus and congratulating our rather bewildered hero who clearly was unaware quite how much so many people had felt his pain. All that was missing was a sign saying "Contaminated Land - do not enter for 100 years" and you would never have know we were there. Then again ...

So much excitement and drama, and we hadn't even reached the Start! The coaches eventually arrived at the Start 10 minutes after the race was supposed to have begun. We just about had time to get off the coach get changed and put our bags on the baggage bus. The atmosphere was pleasantly peculiar. There we were, about 7500+ of us, in the middle of the Scottish Highlands, listening to a DJ pumping out music and firing us up, and all around were mountains and glens. Weird. But Cool.

Dougie is narrowly beaten by the man who came third in the Scottish Arnold Scharzenegger lookalike competition 2005 Lately I've been running races badly so I'd decided to take a bit of time and do a lot more thinking and planning for this one. I'd considered a few options and talked to many old-timers before coming up with a Plan 'A' and a Plan 'B'. Both were for sub-4 targets but Plan 'A' largely focused on pace, and Plan 'B' on heartrate, although they both followed the principle of running a negative split. I used the calculator at marathonguide.com as a guide. However the route is very uppy and downy and about 2 minutes after the race started I abandoned both plans in favour of Plan 'C', a hitherto undeveloped plan that went along the lines of "Let's see how it goes without going ballistic too early".

For Striders thinking of doing this Marathon don't be fooled by the course profile. True, it has an overall drop, but it has lots of nippy little hills that the profile sketchers decided weren't worth making a fuss over. I'd say it's a fair bit harder than Edinburgh (Phil?). One thing I think I did right was 'allowing myself to run faster' on the descents. A lot of runners seem to hold back on the downhills when in fact you can gain quite a bit of time just by letting yourself go without increasing your energy expenditure very much. I passed the half-way point in 2.02 and for at times I thought I would pull back the time to sub-4 then another cheeky little hill would suddenly appear. Then I hit a biggie at mile 18 and I knew it wasn't going to happen. I heard my name shouted around this point and looked round to see Phil who was hobbling cheerfully along 'not really racing'. For Phil this race could be classified as a 'quarter of a Hardmoors' (and a little less hilly), so just a little bit of warm down really. Given that this is only a week later, Phil finished in an indecently respectable 4.16. Some people have no shame. A mention too for Anna Seeley who ran a blistering sub-3.30.

I ran all the way and was doing 8-9 min/miles towards the finish. I judged it about right. I'd been worried that by running a negative split I'd feel that I could've gone faster earlier but there was little danger of that. I was pretty much done in by the finish and my mile pace kept slipping as I tried to pull it back down. It was a good race plan and I simply wasn't fit and strong enough on the day to run it. Next time! Oh, And it was bit hot. Scotland. Loch Ness. October. Off course it's going to be hot!


Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Simon Tonui Birchfield Harriers M 1 2:20:13
774 Andrew Thompson M 354 3:53:56
1019 Dougie Nisbet M40+ 268 4:03:31
1233 Phil Owen M40+ 319 4:16:43

2,171 finishers.

Dalbeattie Hardrock Challenge, 4th October

Run 10M, MTB 16M

Tom Reeves

Tom. This race was a bit of a change for me as it’s a Duathlon (Run and Cycle). It consists of a 10 mile trail run followed by a 16 mile mountain bike ride over the Dalbeattie Hardrock mountain bike route . People could do it as a team of two or individually, I was doing it on my own. Dalbeattie is in one of my favourite parts of the UK, just south of Dumfries on the Solway coast. The race itself was in Dalbeattie forest. On the way up we hit torrential rain on the M6 and there were some very strong winds. My oldest son Matthew competed in the junior race on the Saturday, the forest seemed to offer shelter from the strong winds and thankfully the rain had stopped. After the junior race we went for a bit of a pedal around some of the Hardrock route, I managed to skillfully hit a tree root and went for a wanger denting my pride and the frame of my brand new bike ouch!!

The weather on the senior race day, Sunday was fantastic, cool, sunny and very calm. The race started at 11 with bagpipes lots of people ringing cowbells and a countdown from 10. The run was mainly on good forest tracks, it was quite undulating with a total of 700 feet of ascent. There was about two miles on lovely muddy, rocky single track where I got past a good ten or so runners. The run went in a big loop back to the start and the transition area. I wasn’t sure how hard to push given I still had 16 miles to cycle? Anyhow I did it in 76 minutes. I got on my bike and gave the ladies a thrill as I pulled my running shorts off and put on my cycle shorts (I was wearing pants) and then I was off again.

I have rode some of the cycle route in the past, however I had forgotten how technical it was and within half a mile I was being overtaken by numerous mountain bikers, whizzing along as I got off and pushed my bike down the mega steep bits (wuss that I am). I think I was overtaken by about 50 cyclists over the 16 mile although I lost count after about 30. The end was great fun lots of support and my name being announced as I cycled in. All in all this really was quite a challenge, but also great fun and one of the friendliest races I’ve been in.

P.S. if you fancy entering this race next year (and why not) either form a team with a good mountain biker or get over to Hamsterley forest and hit those technical routes, it’ll be worth the preparation.

Coniston Trail Race, 3rd October


Dave Robson

I arrived at this one quite early to find the weather pretty grim, heavy rain with strong winds. However, as the morning progressed it became sunny, but the wind was still very strong. They had moved the start since I last did this race two years ago and it now starts at the same school as the Coniston 14m which many Striders have raced. However, instead of going round the lake, the route of this race goes up towards the old mines and most people walked this section.

As usual I had transferred to the Challenge and set off with no clear plan at all. I bimbled along, walked up the hill and nearly got blown off at the highest point as we were hit by a very strong gust! I took it easy on slippery rocks and then caught up with Denise and Jane and chatted away for a couple of miles. When the route veered off the Walna Scar Road and started to descend, I started to feel I could run much faster, so I did.

I am not confident on descents, but this descent was lovely and I flew down through Torver and then along by the lake to the finish. Debs was the first lady home in the Challenge and she won a great spot prize which gives her free entry to all four of next year’s Lakeland Trail Races ! Entries are now open for next year and these runs on established trails are great fun !